Stoney Hill report backs controversial gravel road, zoning review, more parkland

Roger Lawson speaks to North Cowichan council about the Stoney Hill Road project during a Dec. 19 council meeting. - Peter W. Rusland/file
Roger Lawson speaks to North Cowichan council about the Stoney Hill Road project during a Dec. 19 council meeting.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland/file

Debate about keeping Maple Bay Peninsula's rural character — and building a road through the Stoney Hill area — happens today at North Cowichan council.

But decisions about adopting recommendations in planning director Scott Mack's 14-page report, released Friday, may not occur until Feb. 6.

"It's not our intention to make decisions tomorrow," Mayor Jon Lefebure said, "but any councillor can make a motion."

However, Icel Dobel of the Road Less Travelled committee said some residents worry road decisions will be made before much more public conversation.

"There should be months of consultation — we don't understand why this process has to be rushed."

Debate hinges on Mack's recommendations to create a local area service — involving borrowing $2 million for property owner repayment — then building the controversial gravel road.

It would include $500,000 from council, and allow citizen, and emergency services' access to some 73 peninsula lots.

"That's one of the steps for the road to be possible. Council has deferred that decision until we had this report," said Lefebure.

Dobel said some folks remain confused about the road and its process.

"They don't know what the (council's bylaw) postponement means. The report doesn't address the issue of the public's right to decide on the land's use."

Mack's second suggestion is to review the peninsula's zoning — and uses in the municipality's other rural areas — and if those zones reflect the official community plan.

"Our OCP's quite old and a bit out of date. Staff has started to review all zones and bylaw language with a view to make them fit properly with the OCP amendment we did. That will take about 12 to 18 months," the mayor said.

A Neighbourhood and Resource Management plan for the peninsula, funded in council's 2014-18 budget, is also urged by Mack.

"It would be a local area plan for Stoney Hill," said Lefebure.

"We've looked at a plan for Chemainus and one for Crofton's in the works. We want smaller areas to have their own plan to deal with its specifics. A peninsula plan would be done in conjunction with the zoning review."

Finally, Mack suggests staff study making parkland out of the peninsula's 306 hectares of municipal forest reserve.

"It will not necessarily answer all concerns about preserving wilderness or natural places out there, but would remove logging from 755 acres of municipal forest an there's value in looking at that," said Lefebure.

Meanwhile, some residents continue gathering official alternate approval process forms after 919 of a required 2,150 were handed to council by the Dec. 14 deadline.

"It doesn't drive council to do anything. If someone makes the effort to gather information, we 'll review it," Lefebure said.

Other data could surface during a 7 p.m. road meeting planned for Jan. 29 at Maple Bay's fire hall, said Dobel.

"The expense of doing a referendum would be nothing compared to racing ahead with something the public may not be in favor of. We'd like a lot more public meetings so at the end the public gets to decide, not just a few people."


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